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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Web checks for student cheating
computer keyboard
Internet plagiarism is a growing problem for universities
Students who plagiarise essays from the internet could be detected by software able to check their work against 4.5 billion web pages.

The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen says the Turnitin tool can search 800 million websites and previously submitted work for copying.

The move comes amid concern over a "cut and paste culture", which allows students to cheat more easily.

The University of Kent at is also running detection software trials.

'Backing needed'

Under the Robert Gordon scheme, students are asked to submit their work, which is then run through Turnitin.

Last year, Professor Justin Greenwood, of the university's Aberdeen Business School, received a number of essay submissions which were plagiarised from the web.

He said: "My first reaction was to change to exam based assessments only.

"After attending a seminar on the subject, however, I decided to re-design coursework assessments."

So far, the scheme has been voluntary.

Prof Greenwood said: "With an undergraduate module of 80 students, I achieved a 90% response rate and on small postgraduate modules a 100% response rate.

"To make it work completely, it needs full institutional backing across the board of coursework submissions, which would require no more than adding a permissive statement to coursework submission/sign-in forms."

Last week, Michael Gunn, a 21-year-old English student at the University of Kent, who admitted plagiarism, said he would sue the university for taking away his coursework marks.

He claims he should have been warned that his actions were against the regulations.

Plagiarism is a growing problem among students, with several websites set up to provide ready-written work and extensive guidelines for essays.

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27 May 04  |  Education
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13 Nov 03  |  Education
Net closes on essay cheats
10 Jan 03  |  Education

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